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Brain MRI

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What is a brain MRI used for?

Brain MRI is the most sensitive test for detection and monitoring of diseases of the brain.

Our brain is divided into areas that control our speech, hearing, movement and awareness. When one of these areas is affected by a disease, then we may have symptoms such as weakness of the arms or legs, or tingling and altered sensations in our limbs or face. MRI can evaluate which part of the brain is affected and also determine the underlying cause.

Brain MRI can:

  • Identify the presence and type of a tumour.
  • Detect acute stroke.
  • Obtain images of the arteries of the brain to evaluate for blockages. This type of MRI is called MRA or magnetic resonance angiography. It can be used to identify aneurysms or abnormal enlargements of the artery which can rupture and bleed.
  • Assess for an underlying cause for epilepsy or seizures.
  • Identify demyelination or multiple sclerosis.
  • Assess the pituitary gland.
  • Evaluate brain damage due to trauma or infection.

How to prepare for a Brain MRI?

Please do not wear eye makeup or glitter makeup. This can alter the images.

What to expect from a Brain MRI?

Your head will be placed in the middle of the MRI machine with an imaging receiver coil around it.

For many indications for Brain MRI, you will be required to have a needle placed in your arm for administration of contrast (gadolinium). This emphasises abnormalities in the brain making them more conspicuous for diagnosis.

Your examination will take between 30 to 60 minutes.

Advanced Neuroimaging – Neurological fMRI, DTI and Fibre Tracking Studies

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The most advanced neuroimaging available provides a window on brain function.

In evaluating a patient with a brain tumour for possible surgery, it can be very important to determine the location of vital areas of the brain which provide for hand movement, speech and visual comprehension, and therefore to see if a tumour can be safely resected with less chance of a deficit in vital functions.

Neurosurgeons have done this in the past with brain surface EEG recordings, which can require that the patient is awake for part of the operation.

Functional MRI (fMRI) offers the opportunity to map areas of brain activity pre-operatively, by asking the patient to perform a task such as repetitive finger-tapping or speech tasks such as verb generation, and looking for subtle changes in blood flow to areas of the brain that occur as a result. White matter pathways in the brain can also be evaluated with Diffusion Tensor Imaging, by looking for the patterns of diffusion of water molecules in brain tissue, because water molecules tend to diffuse along, rather than across white matter tracts. White matter can also be evaluated with mathematical maps including Fractional Anisotropy (FA) maps which can be helpful in diffuse white matter diseases.